The Solution To Pain Killer Addiction: Litigation

Addiction to prescription pain killers is actually a serious problem in this country.  As a former  prosecutor, I saw it all too often where a person started out with a legitimate need for prescription narcotics, but over time, became addicted and began to abuse pills.  What started with a prescription at the pharmacy ended witha bust for buying stolen pills from drug dealers.  Clearly, there’s a need a for some reform in this area.  But could litigation really be the avenue to help patients avoid addition?  Some Nevada lawmakers clearly think more litigation is the answer.

Nevada lawmakers have proposed a new bill that would create liability for physicians and drug manufacturers if a patient becomes addicted to prescription drugs.  Under the proposed law, if a patient prevails in the suit, the defendant would be liable to pay for the patients’ rehab and attorney’s fees, as well as possible punitive damages.  State Sen  Tick Segerblom, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the AP,  “They know the person can get addicted to the drug so they should pay for the process of them getting off it.”  Oh, to live in the simple black and white world of a state senator.

Prescription narcotics are without a doubt necessary for pain management in a great number of cases.  And doctors will say that just about anyone who takes prescription narcotics will develop at least some level of dependency.  They key is making sure that the dependency doesn’t turn abusive and that patients are properly weaned off the drugs when the time comes.   Yet even if a doctor properly manages a patient’s treatment and oversees their prescription drug use, this bill seeks to hold them strictly liable if the patient begins abusing prescription drugs.  Not surprisingly, the bill has faced sharp opposition from the medical community.   It’s hard to see how that would help the situation other than to make doctors gunshy about prescribing the drugs.

Of course, as little sense as the law makes with respect to doctors, it makes even less sense with respect to the drug manufacturers.  There’s no doubt the drugs are vital to a great number of patients, and they have legitimate place in the practice of medicine.  If the drug makers have provided all of the proper warnings, how can they be held liable for a doctor’s judgment as to whom they should be prescribed to and in what amount?  Are we trying to get the drug makers involved in the process of actually prescribing the drugs?

In the end, it’s doubtful this bill will pass.  But if it does, it will accomplish nothing more than putting a few more bucks in the pockets of some plaintiff’s attorneys.

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